Hunter Biden's lawyers say gun portion of plea deal remains valid after special counsel announcement
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorneys for Hunter Biden are pushing to keep part of a plea deal they reached with the prosecutor whose new status as special counsel has intensified the tax investigation into the president's son ahead of the 2024 election.
As House Republicans continued their own investigations, Biden's attorney argued in court documents that an agreement sparing him prosecution on a felony gun charge still is in place even though the plea deal on misdemeanor tax offenses largely unraveled during a court appearance last month.
His lawyer argues the Justice Department decided to "renege" on its end of the deal on tax charges. The agreement on the gun charge also contains an immunity clause against federal prosecutions for some other potential crimes.
Biden plans to abide by the terms of that agreement, including not using drugs or alcohol, attorney Christopher Clark said in court papers filed late Sunday. Prosecutors who "largely dictated" the agreement after inviting them to begin plea negotiations in May should also be bound by it, he argued.
It's unclear whether prosecutors agree that the gun agreement remains valid. U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika ordered them to respond by Tuesday. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The two-part deal on tax and gun charges was supposed to have largely wrapped up the long-running investigation overseen by Delaware U.S. attorney David Weiss. But it hit the skids after a judge raised questions about its terms and it appeared to have fallen apart completely when prosecutors said the case was instead headed toward trial in court papers Friday.
Prosecutors revealed the impasse as Attorney General Merrick Garland named Weiss as special counsel, a status that confers broad powers to investigate and report out his findings.
The government said plea negotiations had broken down, filed to dismiss the tax charges against Hunter Biden in Delaware and indicated they could charge him instead in another court, like Washington, D.C., or California.
Hunter Biden's history of drug use and financial dealings have trailed the political career of his father, President Joe Biden. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said of the president Monday, "He loves his son, and he is proud of him overcoming his addiction and how he's continuing to build his life."
House Republicans are pursuing their own congressional investigations into nearly every facet of Hunter Biden's business dealings and the Justice Department's handling of the case. They released a transcript of an interview with a former FBI agent who worked the case and said he was unable to interview Hunter Biden after FBI officials notified the Secret Service ahead of time in 2020. That underscored similar testimony from IRS agents turned whistleblowers and adds to Republicans' lack of confidence in the Justice Department and Weiss as special counsel, Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer said.
House Democrats, though, pointed to several instances where the unnamed former FBI agent testified that he has never known Weiss or any of the assistant U.S. attorneys in Delaware to make decisions based upon political influence — a point that directly undermines Republican claims of political interference in the Hunter Biden case.
Republicans have denounced Hunter Biden's plea agreement as a "sweetheart deal." It had called for him to plead guilty to failing to pay taxes on over $1.5 million in income in both 2017 and 2018, and get probation rather than jail on the misdemeanor counts. A separate agreement was to spare him prosecution on the felony crime of being a drug user in possession of a gun in 2018 if he kept out of trouble for two years.
The surprise appointment about Weiss as special counsel raised fresh questions about the case. Garland said Weiss had asked to be named special counsel.
It comes against the backdrop of the Justice Department's unprecedented indictments against former President Donald Trump, who is President Biden's chief rival in next year's election.
The cases differ significantly: Trump has been indicted and is awaiting trial in two separate cases brought by special prosecutor Jack Smith. One is over Trump's refusal to turn over classified documents stored at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The other involves charges of fraud and conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
In the case of Hunter Biden, prosecutors have not made any accusations or charges against the president in probing the affairs of his son. House Republicans have been trying to connect Hunter Biden's work to his father, but have not been able to produce evidence to show any wrongdoing.
Asked whether special counsel David Weiss's investigation would unearth any new information about whether the president was involved with Hunter Biden's business dealings, Jean-Pierre said: "The president was not in business with his son. That still stands. And I just don't have anything else to add."
Associated Press writers Farnoush Amiri and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.